Colorado has confirmed the first known U.S. case of a new coronavirus strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom.
California has reported its first case of a more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom – the second confirmed case in the U.S.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking in an online conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the case was confirmed in Southern California Wednesday afternoon.
Colorado reported the first known case of the variant in the U.S. on Tuesday and was investigating a second possible case Wednesday.
Fauci said he was not surprised by the finding in California.
“We likely will be seeing reports from more states,” Fauci said. “This is something that’s expected.”
Here’s what scientists know: The new variant of coronavirus is spreading fast in the UK
Scientists in the United Kingdom said the variant strain, known as B.1.1.7, is more contagious than previously identified strains but not more severe. According to models, it has an increased transmission rate of 70% compared with other variants in the U.K.
The strain was first spotted in September in southeastern England and accounted for a quarter of cases in London by November. By the week of Dec. 9, it was responsible for 60% of cases in the city.
As Britain cheered the emergency authorization Wednesday of a coronavirus vaccine produced by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the government extended its highest tier of restrictions to three-quarters of England’s population, beyond London and the southeast to large swaths of central, northern and southwest England.
“Our strategy throughout has been to suppress the virus until a vaccine can make us safe. Suppressing the virus has got a whole lot harder because of the new variant – and we must take more action today,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a speech to the House of Commons on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, this new variant is now spreading across most of England, and cases are doubling fast.”
The strain has been identified in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, India, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. South Africa identified a strain similar to the one first identified in the U.K., but it emerged independently of the U.K. strain and is not related to it, according to the CDC.
The Colorado lab identified the confirmed variant through analysis of testing samples, initially spotting a tell-tale sign of the variant in a PCR test. Scientists then sequenced the viral genome and found eight mutations specific to the spike protein gene associated with this variant, according to the governor’s office.
The CDC said last week that the strain could already be in the country without detection. As of Dec. 22, viruses had only been sequenced from about 51,000 of 17 million U.S. cases, the agency said.
“The arrival of this variant in the United States was expected,” Dr. Henry Walke, COVID-19 Incident Manager at the CDC, said Wednesday. Walke said officials don’t know if the other variant, first identified in South Africa, is in the U.S.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, mutates regularly and acquires about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks, according to the CDC. The U.K. variant has several mutations that affect the so-called “spiked protein” on the virus surface that attaches to human cells.
Researchers believe current COVID-19 vaccines will likely protect against the new variant, but data is needed. The virus would “likely need to accumulate multiple mutations in the spike protein to evade immunity induced by vaccines or by natural infection,” according to the CDC.
“From what we know from experience with this mutation and other mutations, it’s unlikely to have a large impact on vaccine-induced immunity, or existing immunity from previous strains,” said Dr. Greg Armstrong, director of the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection.
Armstrong said it is unclear how the variants may respond to COVID-19 treatments.
Last SlideNext Slide
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/30/california-reports-first-case-more-contagious-covid-19-strain/4092714001/